Islington Council Energy Services won the Homes & Communities Project of the Decade Award at the Association for Decentralised Energy's Awards Dinner on the 19th October 2017 for Bunhill Heat & Power.
Islington developed Bunhill Heat and Power to provide cheaper, greener heat to the local community, reduce fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency. It is the Council’s ground-breaking, innovative scheme involving retrofitting two kilometres of combined heat and power supplied district heating in an inner-city environment. The scheme began supplying heat and hot water in 2012 and it now serves over 860 dwellings, two leisure centres and four office blocks. Bunhill is a catalyst for driving regeneration in the area through investing in infrastructure and and keeping energy bills low.
Islington Council has been working on developing heat networks since the mid-2000s; this has been driven by many factors, including increasing energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions and reducing fuel poverty. In 2003 a borough-wide heat map was commissioned, which served as the foundation of our 2010 Decentralised Energy Strategy. Bunhill was identified as the ideal location for the project because of the area’s high heat density and levels of fuel poverty (13%) and below-average life expectancy.
Developing the scheme
Developing the network in one of the most concentrated cities in the world brought its own unique challenges. London contains some of the most congested utility routes in Europe. To ensure minimal inconvenience, it took cautious planning and analysis to identify the best route for the network to follow.
For the wider development of the programme, funding was one of the major challenges. During a time of unprecedented budget constraints, particularly in local government, Islington Council sought funding from a range of different sources; the first network was funded by grants from the Homes and Community Agency, and the Greater London Authority.
Islington Council sought to connect to private developments. To achieve this, the council rewrote its planning policies to encourage connection to DE networks by requiring a higher level of carbon savings for developments in areas where a network exists.
In order to assist developers, building owners and building services designers, Islington Council created and published detailed guidance for how systems should be designed in order to get the best out of connecting to their networks. Through this endeavour, they have connected over 220 private dwellings to the network; a number which will continue to grow alongside the network.
Bunhill Energy Centre houses a 1.95MWe gas CHP engine and 115m3 thermal store. The network comprises one kilometre of trenching which holds two kilometres of insulated district heating pipework. The network has been future-proofed, allowing it to connect to new developments as they emerge. The Energy Centre includes improvements to the public realm, increasing public open space, retention of trees, large areas of new planting, sustainable materials and urban drainage. It was designed to be visually appealing and in keeping with the local area. A local architect’s firm developed the final design which comprises an FSC green oak timber enclosure and clad thermalstore with low-level soft landscaping.
At the heart of Bunhill Heat and Power is local generation for the benefit of local people; the council were keen to engage with residents throughout its development. The project educated residents on energy security issues and how they can work together to reduce energy use. Islington Council open the doors to the Energy Centre every year as part of Open House London and were ranked as the fourth-best attraction by Time Out in 2013.
Islington Council also engaged with theirr residents through:
- Interactive information sessions
- Consultation on design
- Regular correspondence during construction
- Holding a launch event
- Information boards at the Energy Centre, including a history of power generation in the borough, a map of the network and an explanation of decentralised energy
A film was produced by Moreland Primary School, providing a simple explanation of the system to residents:
Islington Council are committed to tackling fuel poverty, which is why they have delivered a 10% saving on energy bills for our tenants. Their fixed heating bills are set at least 33% lower than the government threshold for fuel poverty.
The network provides a customer-focused approach; it is integrated in to the core functions of the council and we provide a high level of customer service. This includes unrestricted contact hours, a four-hour response time for vulnerable customers (66% quicker than Heat Trust regulations) and an annual flat rate price to protect residents from volatility in global energy markets.